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Hunters racked up some nice scores on big bucks this past season.

For the last six seasons, Jeff Pippard at Niagara Outdoors in North Tonawanda has set aside a day in mid to late February for New York State Big Buck Club officials to score big-game animals. During this year’s Measuring Day, Pete Labushesky, Don Haseley and Dave Muir began measuring big-game trophies at 10 a.m. Feb. 23 at the Niagara Outdoors store and processed a total of 16 heads by mid afternoon.

To become official, measurements in books kept by hunting groups such as Boone and Crocket (for guns), Pope and Young (for archers) and the New York State Big Buck Club (for both gun and bow trophies), the deer rack or bear skull must be kept intact to air dry for at least 60 days after the animal was tagged and taken from the field. The rack and/or skull cannot be frozen or stored in a freezer during that period.

Deer-antler scores have three categories and two types. A hunter can enter deer taken with a gun, archery/bow or muzzleloader; entries in each category are divided by antler configurations deemed either typical or non-typical.

An overall total is assigned to the entire rack. For that score to be entered into the NYSBBC scoring book, measurements must be at or exceed these scores: Gun (typical), 140; gun (non-typical) 165; archery (typical (120); archery (non-typical) 145; muzzleloader (typical) 145); and muzzleloader (non-typical), 165. Official scoring requires intact skulls, but scorers will rate antlers that have been shed in the field.

“We have measured many more than this count in years past, but there have already been measuring sessions held before this week and there will be another one at S&S Taxidermy in March,” Labushesky said of the relatively low count this year.

Judged by the numbers of nice deer antler growth seen on opening weekend at the Department of Environmental Conservation Region 9 Check Station on Route 16 south of Holland, hunters took home some respectable — if not book-worthy trophy-sized — heads this past season.

Royalton hunter Donald Gillette was one of the first to bring in a respectable rack that Saturday morning.

Gillette hunted near home on opening weekend (Nov. 17 and 18) this past season and pondered a while before deciding to hunt with a scope-mounted .44-caliber pistol Sunday morning.

He had seen several big bucks first-hand and on a trail camera earlier in the season. “But I didn’t recall seeing this one and I know there is a bigger one out there,” Gillette said while pointing to a massive 8-point rack of a deer he took with a 165-yard shot.

The age of this buck might vary between 3.5- and 4.5-years old, but Labushesky totaled the final score precisely at 151 points, 11 points above book entry.

Several more heads among the 15 others that were scored that day made the official gun or archery NYSBBC book entry. Haseley measured racks that came close to the Gillette buck. “One was close but it had deductions,” Haseley said of similarly large racks scored that day.

Scoring sessions are free, but a $20 fee must accompany applications for entry in the NYSBBC scoring book and a $20 cost for a copy of that book.

Hunters have another opportunity to determine official scores of their trophy deer racks. Six or seven scorers with NYSBBC will be at S&S Taxidermy in Springville for an Annual Open House from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on March 30. The open house will also feature manufacturer reps and sporting groups such as Deer Search and Erie County Trappers Association.

Scorers at S&S Taxidermy will offer free measuring assessments from 9 a.m. until about 1 p.m. For more details on this event, call 592-2404.

email: odrswill@gmail.com